Fitch assigns gulf finance house b idr; outlook stable

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(The following statement was released by the rating agency) LONDON, October 13 (Fitch) Fitch Ratings has assigned Bahrain-based Gulf Finance House BSC (GFH) a Long-term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) of 'B-' with a Stable Outlook and Short-term IDR of 'B'. KEY RATING DRIVERS - IDRs GFH's IDRs reflect the fact that its balance sheet consists mainly of illiquid investments, which do not generate much income, and its high single name and sector concentration. About 60% of assets consist of real estate properties, securities (equity stakes) in real estate related projects or legacy loans related to real estate. Geographically the focus is on the GCC with about 74% of exposure in GCC countries and 8% in other MENA countries. Around half of the balance sheet is pledged against existing debt. The ratings take into account GFH's successful refinancing of debt, and its success in raising capital. Fitch considers that GFH's liquidity, leverage and funding profile have stabilised and should provide some flexibility to work out legacy asset exposures. However, in Fitch's view, profitability remains weak and volatile and is unlikely to improve materially and sustainably until significant balance sheet and business model reshaping has taken place. GFH's capacity for continued operation is vulnerable to deterioration in the business and economic environment. GFH is an Islamic investment bank, established in Bahrain in 1999 to focus on investments in the GCC and MENA region. GFH built a solid niche market, focusing specifically on real estate, infrastructure projects - mainly large-scale green-field projects - and equities. The financial crisis starting in 2008 hit GFH's business model hard, with collapsing real estate prices, and real estate development projects across the region put on hold or cancelled. Since 2012, GFH has focused on restructuring the bank, and setting out a new strategy, and this included a complete change of the bank's board of directors and senior management changes. One important focus of the new strategy is to strengthen the GFH brand, which was affected during the financial crisis, to rebuild the confidence of its clients, investors and financing banks, and to focus on more liquid and income-generating assets. Organisationally, GFH intends to have four or five separate business divisions, each with its own CEO and each contributing to overall GFH group profitability. The divisions would encompass real estate investments (but income producing and more liquid investments, not green-field projects), industrial investments such as cement, which would generate synergies with the real estate business, asset management, and commercial banking via GFH's subsidiary Khaleeji Commercial Bank, a Bahrain-based Islamic bank focused on real estate, specifically mortgage lending. GFH also intends to use its current stock of illiquid real estate assets to set up a real estate development arm. GFH is working on reviving the real estate projects; forming joint ventures with contractors it feels can complete the projects, with GFH providing the land and the contractor carrying out and financing completion of the project. Following completion, the investment would either be sold (profitably) or kept as an income producing asset, with GFH and the contractor sharing the income generated. RATING SENSITIVITIES - IDRs Any upside to the ratings would require as a minimum some track record of successful implementation of GFH's new strategy; evidence of solid profitability and a viable business model. Implementation of the bank's strategy depends on a continuation of the pick-up in both real estate and equity markets in the region. Contact: Primary Analyst Laila Sadek Director +44 20 3530 1308 Fitch Ratings Limited 30 North Colonnade London E14 5GN Secondary Analyst Eric Dupont Senior Director +33 1 4429 9131 Committee Chairperson Gordon Scott Managing Director +44 20 3530 1075 Media Relations: Christian Giesen, Frankfurt am Main, Tel: +49 69 768076 232, Email: christian.this site Additional information is available on this site Applicable criteria, 'Global Financial Institutions Rating Criteria' dated 31 January 2014, is available at this site. Applicable Criteria and Related Research: 2014 Outlook: GCC/Middle East Banks here Global Financial Institutions Rating Criteria here Additional Disclosure Solicitation Status here ALL FITCH CREDIT RATINGS ARE SUBJECT TO CERTAIN LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS. PLEASE READ THESE LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS BY FOLLOWING THIS LINK: here. IN ADDITION, RATING DEFINITIONS AND THE TERMS OF USE OF SUCH RATINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON THE AGENCY'S PUBLIC WEBSITE 'WWW. FITCHRATINGS. COM'. PUBLISHED RATINGS, CRITERIA AND METHODOLOGIES ARE AVAILABLE FROM THIS SITE AT ALL TIMES. FITCH'S CODE OF CONDUCT, CONFIDENTIALITY, CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, AFFILIATE FIREWALL, COMPLIANCE AND OTHER RELEVANT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES ARE ALSO AVAILABLE FROM THE 'CODE OF CONDUCT' SECTION OF THIS SITE. FITCH MAY HAVE PROVIDED ANOTHER PERMISSIBLE SERVICE TO THE RATED ENTITY OR ITS RELATED THIRD PARTIES. 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